Maalavika Manoj, popularly known as Mali, is a force in the Indian Indie Music scene. She has been riding solo since her band Bass-in-Bridge broke up in 2011. Mali has been into music since childhood. She wasn’t born to musician parents, but they were huge music buffs who introduced her to a lot of music from the 70s and 80s. She enrolled in a piano class at the age of five and continued to learn it till she was 17. She also tried learning the guitar, because of the instrument’s perceived “coolness”.
Mali’s first ever singing performance happened at a party when she was just 12 years old. She performed a slightly altered version of the Ella Fitzgerald classic, “Fever”. The rest, as they say, is history. Growing up on a steady diet of electronic music, a career in music happened almost organically for Mali. She never had to specifically discuss with her parents and inform them that she was going to pursue music as a full time career. After graduating from Loyola College, Chennai, she shifted to Mumbai in its pursuit.
Stylistically, Mali’s compositions are usually based upon life changing events such as “moving to another place” or “going through a break up”. Melancholia can be a theme that can be associated with most of her music. However, that is probably an oversimplification. Her exquisitely crafted songs are a sort of unsolvable puzzle for listeners. Yes, you can identify certain parts but as a whole, it’s tough to label the entire endeavour. It is melancholic, no doubt, but it’s so much more. “Absolute” is the latest single in Mali’s bewitchingly brilliant catalogue, and that’s what we will be reviewing here.
“Absolute” starts with a beautifully despondent piano melody over which Mali sings the intro for a few bars. Then the languid groove kicks in and accompanies you for the next (almost) three minutes. Mali’s vocal performance is stunning. She has a very rich and distinct voice. You can hear (and almost see) her sitting in her room with her thoughts. Good singers can make you feel their words, great singers can use the words to conjure up images in your mind’s eye.
No, we aren’t talking about any chakra-unlocking spiritual sojourn, it’s more about Mali showing us her world through words. Even in this calm after the storm, the past weighs heavy on her shoulder and this song might be a way for her to take the weight off. The highlights of the track are definitely the layered vocals during the song’s final part. Talk about going out with a bang.
Musically, the track has a rich and full accompaniment which sets up the general mood perfectly. Special mention to the lovely strings in the mix. The production and mastering are almost major label level precise. A job well done on that front.
“Absolute” is a very aptly named track. It’s so well composed and performed that it makes one wonder if Mali will ever be able to top it. However, do you know which is the best song in a great artist’s catalogue? The next one.
Verdict: Absolutely brilliant.